With pupils across England returning to school this week, new Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) research shows that close to a quarter (23 per cent) of small firms believe that the reopening of schools and nurseries, as well as the availability of childminders, will have an impact on their ability to reopen safely.

Many of the people who work in Worcestershire’s 27,000 small businesses have childcare responsibilities.

Of course running a business and working remotely during a severe recession with children at home is no mean feat. That’s why the safe return of pupils to schools is critical to getting our local, small firms firing on all cylinders again.

It’s also vitally important that we need to get back to developing the apprentices, graduates and entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

Equally, there are many Worcestershire firms that rely directly on footfall linked to schools. FSB is urging all of those who are returning to classrooms this week to be considerate and patient when visiting small firms before, during or after the school day.

Of course there are many within the county’s small business community, who have children who are not yet of school age. That’s why more needs to be done to protect the future of our local childcare providers.

Small firms within the sector were already up against a plethora of challenges before coronavirus hit. The pandemic has made a bad situation worse, with cashflow all but evaporating for months at many pre-school providers.

To add insult to injury, there was a huge amount of confusion regarding eligibility for furlough and 30-hour free funding around the time of the initial national lockdown, meaning extra uncertainty for nurseries.

We now need to ensure that funding for the 30-hour free pledge is genuinely adequate and also make the current business rates exemption for nurseries permanent.

A safe return to school and stability in the childcare sector will help Worcestershire’s small businesses, their staff and their customers to get back to business more quickly and more efficiently.